Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

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17.01.2019 |

We are fed-up 2019
Call to Action for 19 January 2019

AXE EU FUNDS for argo-industries!

Stand up for low-impact farming, animal welfare, climate justice and good food!

Climate-friendly agriculture, good food and the continuation of small-scale, community-based farming is at stake! In 2019, the German government takes part in decisions that will determine the future of EU agriculture. The EU CAP reform (Common Agricultural Policy) will define what type of agriculture benefits from €60 billion in EU subsidies every year. Under current rules, those owning most land receive most money, regardless of their farming methods. This must end! We cannot continue to prop up agro-industries with public funds.

The transformation of our farming system towards sustainable farming cannot wait. With our pots and pans we sound the alarm for sustainable farming and call on the German government to support only those who are willing to convert their farms to climate-, nature- and animal-friendly farming with public funds.

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You vote with what you eat!

In our cities and rural communities, we show we can do better. More and more farmers are producing food without pesticides and GMOs, and invest in the welfare of their animals. More people take part in foodsharing, community-supported agriculture and choose locally produced food. Together we vote with our wallets and raise our forks for a farming revolution: for diversity, equality and sustainability – and against discrimination, exploitation and fear!

16.01.2019 |

Ecuadorian peasants and ecologists win battle against GM crops

Judge orders Ministry of Agriculture to burn all GM crops found in illegal cultivations

A judge in Quevedo, Ecuador has accepted a protection order in favour of the peasants of the province of Los Ríos, in response to a lawsuit that was filed by two peasant organisations and is sponsored by the Ombudsman's Office. These events were reported by the Network for a GM Free Latin America.

The lawsuit was filed after monitoring by Acción Ecológica and the Ombudsman in the soybean producing areas of the country found that glyphosate-tolerant GM soybeans had been planted, despite the fact that Ecuador is constitutionally a country free of GM seeds and crops.

In a first hearing, the judge had ordered that monitoring be carried out, with the participation of the plaintiffs together with the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrocalidad, the Animal and Plant Health Regulation Agency. The monitoring confirmed that GM soybean is being planted illegally in the area.

Faced with this evidence, the judge granted the protection order and pointed out that GM crops violate the rights to life, health, work, a healthy environment and the rights of nature.

13.01.2019 |

Bound to fail: The flawed scientific foundations of agricultural genetic engineering

Half a century on from the first promises of wondercrops, GM has delivered little of value – and the same will be true of the new gene-edited GMOs, says researcher Dr Angelika Hilbeck

The GMO food venture is bound to fail because it is based on flawed scientific foundations. This was the message of a public talk given by Dr Angelika Hilbeck, researcher at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and a board member and co-founder of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), on the evening before the 9th GMO Free Europe conference in Berlin this September.

Dr Hilbeck's talk introduced a panel discussion with four other scientists: Prof Jack Heinemann of the University of Canterbury, New Zealand; Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher of Econexus; Dr Sarah Agapito-Tenfen of Genøk Centre for Biosafety, Norway; and Prof Ignacio Chapela of the University of California Berkeley. The entire discussion can be viewed here.

Below is our summary of Dr Hilbeck's talk, given from her perspective as an ecologist. This article will be followed by a second commentary on the same theme by the London-based molecular geneticist Dr Michael Antoniou, this time from the standpoint of molecular biology.

11.01.2019 |

Updated seed monopoly chart
As four seed companies now control more than 60 percent of the global market, a seed policy expert argues that consolidation poses major risks to our food supply.

The Sobering Details Behind the Latest Seed Monopoly Chart

When Philip Howard of Michigan State University published the first iteration of his now well-known seed industry consolidation chart in 2008, it starkly illustrated the extent of acquisitions and mergers of the previous decade: Six corporations dominated the majority of the brand-name seed market, and they were starting to enter into new alliances with competitors that threatened to further weaken competition.

Howard’s newly updated seed chart is similar but even starker. It shows how weak antitrust law enforcement and oversight by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has allowed a handful of firms to amass enormous market, economic, and political power over our global seed supply. The newest findings show that the Big 6 (Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Dow, Bayer, and BASF) have consolidated into a Big 4 dominated by Bayer and Corteva (a new firm created as a result of the Dow–DuPont merger), and rounded out with ChemChina and BASF. These four firms control more than 60 percent of global proprietary seed sales.

Howard began his annual tracking of seed industry ownership changes in 1998, a year that served as a turning point for industry consolidation. Two years after genetically engineered (GE) varieties were introduced in 1996, by 1998 the large agribusiness companies had accelerated their consolidation by buying up smaller firms to accumulate more intellectual property (IP) rights. By 2008, Monsanto’s patented genetics alone were planted on 80 percent of U.S. corn acres, 86 percent of cotton acres, and 92 percent of soybean acres. Today, these percentages are even higher.

10.01.2019 |

Monsanto Merger Migraine: Roundup Is Toxic for Bayer

In Werner Baumann's world, the truth is one-dimensional, as he likes to put it, based on facts and scientific findings, studies and expert opinions. That's why the head of Germany's Bayer Group has no doubts about the safety of glyphosate. He says he would acquire Monsanto, the American manufacturer of the controversial crop herbicide at any time, "without any ifs, ands or buts."

But the world outside Bayer Group views things differently. A large segment of the public considers glyphosate to be toxic and Monsanto itself to be the epitome of evil. Thousands of farmers with cancer have filed lawsuits against Monsanto's new owner, and investors now view Bayer shares as high-risk stocks they don't want to include in their portfolios. This has made the past year one of the most difficult in Bayer Group's 155-year history. The new year could prove to be even more turbulent, and it's possible the situation could grow even more perilous for the company.

08.01.2019 |

Detailed Expert Report on Plagiarism and superordinated Copy Paste in the Renewal Assessment Report (RAR) on Glyphosate

Introduction

The classification of glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in March 2015 by the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency IARC triggered a public debate on why this body’s verdict was at odds with the European Union’s “clean bill of health” for the chemical. The question arose at to whether relevant parts of the risk assessment of glyphosate were not actually written by scientists working for Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), but by the European Glyphosate Task Force (GTF) – the coalition of pesticide companies submitting the application. This suspicion could not be satisfactorily cleared up during the hearings of the European Parliament‘s Special Committee on the Union‘s authorisation procedure for pesticides (PEST). Therefore in response, a group of parliamentarians with different political affiliations commissioned the present study.

08.01.2019 |

MAINA: Bt cotton no aid to textiles sector but a trapdoor for unsafe food

In Summary

- Once Bt cotton is accepted, the next step will be the introduction of other food crops, such as Bt maize and GM Soya, into the food system.

- Whichever way you look at it, the main beneficiaries will be the multinationals, who will effectively take over the seed and food industry in Africa.

The push for the introduction of Bt cotton has intensified in Kenya in the past few months.

The GMO proponents are promoting Bt cotton as a crop for fibre and textiles only. However, as it has been done in other countries, only 40 per cent of the Bt cotton will be for textile production; the larger 60 per cent will be extracted as cottonseed oil, cotton seed cake and straw for animal feeds. From this, we can see a greater percentage of the Bt cotton ending up in the food chain — for human consumption.

The supporters argue that tests done on these crops have ascertained their safety on humans and the environment, a claim that is factually erroneous going by the inconclusive scientific findings of studies on GMO safety.

03.01.2019 |

The Rise and Fall of Gene-as-God: It’s the End of the Gene As We Know It

We are not nearly as determined by our genes as once thought.

We’ve all seen the stark headlines: “Being Rich and Successful Is in Your DNA” (Guardian, July 12); “A New Genetic Test Could Help Determine Children’s Success” (Newsweek, July 10); “Our Fortunetelling Genes” make us (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 16); and so on.

The problem is, many of these headlines are not discussing real genes at all, but a crude statistical model of them, involving dozens of unlikely assumptions. Now, slowly but surely, that whole conceptual model of the gene is being challenged.

We have reached peak gene, and passed it.

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In a paper in Physics of Life Reviews in 2013, James Shapiro describes how cells and organisms are capable of “natural genetic engineering.” That is, they frequently alter their own DNA sequences, rewriting their own genomes throughout life. The startling implication is that the gene as popularly conceived—a blueprint on a strand of DNA, determining development and its variations—does not really exist.

So it is, in a review in the journal Genetics in 2017, that the geneticists Petter Portin and Adam Wilkins question “the utility of the concept of a basic ‘unit of inheritance’ and the long implicit belief that genes are autonomous agents.” They show that “the classic molecular definition [is] obsolete.”

These radical revisions of the gene concept need to reach the general public soon—before past social policy mistakes are repeated.

02.01.2019 |

Experts agree: New GMOs can be detected

Dr Yves Bertheau and other experts rebut claims that genome-edited products cannot be distinguished from natural products and thus cannot be detected or regulated

GMO proponents lobbying for lax regulation of GM plants and animals produced with "new GM" techniques, including genome editing, argue that living organisms naturally contain many mutations (DNA damage), making them "natural GMOs". They add that it is often impossible to distinguish mutations induced by the new GM techniques from naturally induced mutations and that therefore GMOs produced with these techniques should not be regulated more strictly than conventionally bred varieties. Furthermore, they argue that GMOs produced with these techniques often cannot be distinguished from naturally bred organisms. They conclude that these GMOs cannot be identified or traced – and because traceability is not possible, it is simply not practical to regulate or label them.

02.01.2019 |

GM Cotton – Reckless Gamble

The Profit Driven Move that Placed Indian Cotton Farmers in Corporate Noose

The dubious performance (failure) of genetically engineered Bt cotton, officially India’s only GM crop, should serve as a warning as the push within the country to adopt GM across a wide range of food crops continues. This article provides an outline of some key reports and papers that have appeared in the last few years on Bt cotton in India.

In a paper that appeared in December 2018 in the journal Current Science, P.C. Kesavan and M.S. Swaminathan cited research findings to support the view that Bt insecticidal cotton has been a failure in India and has not provided livelihood security for mainly resource-poor, small and marginal farmers. This paper was not just important because of its content but also because M.S. Swaminathan is considered to be the father of the Green Revolution in India.

The two authors provided evidence that indicates Bt crops are unsustainable and have not decreased the need for toxic chemical pesticides, the reason for these GM crops in the first place.

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